Two permanent coral works by Jan Fabre enrich two sacred sites in Naples


Two permanent works of art will enrich the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro and the Church of Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio in Arco, Naples, starting March 2, 2023.

From March 2, 2023, two important works of art will enrich the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro and the Church of Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio in Arco, Naples. They are Per Eusebia and The Number 85 (with angel wings), two permanent installations by Jan Fabre, created thanks to the artist’s own donation together with Gianfranco D’Amato and Vincenzo Liverino.

The installation of the works, curated by Melania Rossi, brings Per Eusebia to the Cathedral of Naples, in the Chapel dedicated to the city’s patron saint, alongside paintings by Domenichino and Lanfranco, more than fifty sculptures and statues of co-patron saints, and the four quintals of silver from the so-called Splendors of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro. The second sculpture, Number 85 (with angel wings), on the other hand, occupies a niche to the left of the altar in the Church of Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio.

For Eusebia (2022) is a panel completely made of a chiseled mosaic of red Mediterranean coral, set up in the Antisacrestia where the keys that open the safe containing the ampulla with the blood of St. Gennaro, an object of worship and popular devotion, are kept.

Jan Fabre chose to recall the beginning of the history of this cult by recalling the pious woman, a relative or nurse of the saint, who first collected his blood after his martyrdom in 305 AD. The artist dematerializes the image of the saint, which he represents in a poetic synthesis of various objects related to the cult of the miraculous blood: the mitre, made with a riot of coral sprigs and surrounded by tongues of fire, with large coral tesserae that recall the 3328 diamonds, 198 emeralds and 168 rubies that adorn it; at the top of the panel two keys, identical to those used to open the safe that holds the blood, reach out toward the two cruets made with red cornets, symbols of fertility and prosperity. The composition offers a sense of movement in which the keys touch the balms from where drops of dark red blood simultaneously descend to the sides of the miter, forming clusters of half-pearls and cylinders of excellent workmanship. The background is an infinite chiaroscuro of coral red, a monochrome formed by natural variations in hues and conformations composed of the assemblage of small rosettes, cornets, and leaflets resembling small starfish, recalling the natural habitat of this material.

Number 85 (with angel wings) (2022) is another Mediterranean red coral sculpture conceived for the Neapolitan church of Anime del Purgatorio in Arco, in which Fabre seems to have become attuned to those representations of death in life and life in death that are the soul of Neapolitan baroque. The work, which seems to be a direct descendant of another sculpture kept in the church, the so-called Winged Skull made by Dionisio Lazzari for the high altar in 1669, consists of a human skull from the sides of which sprout long, tapering wings; on the front is the number 85, whose numerological significance is to be attributed to the souls of Purgatory, and which establishes a direct contact with the cult of the dead, or rather of souls. The work is a kind of anatomical meditation in which the form of life can be grasped as it unravels into other living forms, revealing the great passion for transformation of this visionary Flemish artist-entomologist, constantly hovering between Bosch, Artaud and Cuvier. But it is also an invitation to an initiatory journey, to a purifying elevation, recalled by the wings stretched upward, wishing healing for the soul and following the ascending idea of Dante Alighieri himself in the Purgatory of the Divine Comedy.

Per Eusebia and The Number 85 (with Angel Wings) are accompanied by a catalog with essays by Angela Tecce, Melania Rossi, Marino Niola, Sara Liuzzi, Francesco Imperiali di Francavilla and Francesca Amirante, published by Electa and produced thanks to the contribution of Studio Trisorio.

Image: Jan Fabre, For Eusebia (2022; precious depth coral, pigment, polymers, wood; Naples, Real Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro) © Archivio dell’Arte. Photo by Luciano and Marco Pedicini

Two permanent coral works by Jan Fabre enrich two sacred sites in Naples
Two permanent coral works by Jan Fabre enrich two sacred sites in Naples


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